The Sculpting Process
When weather permits (at least spring, summer, and autumn, and perhaps winter) my “studio space” is outdoors. This allows me to do a bit of earthing, (connecting physically with the earth) as well as to be infused with the abundant shapes of Nature. These may inspire a particular idea, or way to look at the raw stone. If not, the energy from the outdoors gives me energy to approach the raw alabaster. Sketching with pencil allows me to feel the movement of the piece even before I begin carving. I may sketch the stone itself in its raw state, letting its ideas come though.
Inclement weather finds me in our little workshop, warm and cozy with light from the east.
All of my work is hand carved. I believe in a strong connection to the stone which power tools would eliminate. I begin with the classic hammer and variety of chisels to create the basic shapes. As I work I allow the stone to “speak” since it is organic and part of the process. All of this process is subtractive. Once those sections of the alabaster are removed they are permanently gone. But I have learned to conserve the eliminated pieces and even to plan removing sections for future ideas. The alabaster itself may suddenly split or chunk off if a fissure is struck. When I first began sculpting this would create frustration or even anger on my part. Now I have learned that when the stone “speaks” I listen. It usually provides me with an improved sculptural form. A rhythm between us begins to develop. When the final form emerges, I use rasps to fine tune the more complex areas. I may revert back to the chiseling if the concept warrants it.
The final process is polishing. I use four grades of wet/dry sandpaper in succession. Minute changes can take place even at this point in my creative process. Miniscule flaws may arise and then I may have to return to a small amount of chiseling and start polishing all over. The stone comes alive with its color and shine. The final polish is a two stage process of butchers wax. Each alabaster color has its own degree of shine.
I have mounted my work in a variety of ways. Currently my husband Fred, who has a natural eye for movement and shape in word, has mounted my work. We love to hike in areas where trees have left behind interesting pieces, and these are collected. When I complete a work, it takes some time to determine how to display it. Luckily he does all the drilling, which is painful for me to watch. But as a sculpture becomes complete, I feel the same completeness.
~ Louise Porter-Hahn